Veterans must be given more powers: Mantashe

Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says the committee will now meet regularly. / Ihsaan Haffejee. © The Times
Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says the committee will now meet regularly. / Ihsaan Haffejee. © The Times

African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe has called for the Veterans League to be given powers to intervene when the party is in turmoil.

“We are going through a very difficult period as the ANC and one the thing we are missing when we go through a difficult period is veterans who can walk into a meeting of the officials and say: ‘You are slipping down there‚ don’t do it this way because we think if you continue doing it this way‚ you are going to be in trouble.’ That is the authority of the Veterans League that is not written‚” said Mantashe.

He was speaking at the first official ANC Veterans League conference‚ which was held in Boksburg‚ east of Johannesburg‚ on Friday.

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The event aimed to debate problems facing the party and has been opened to ANC members who are 60 and older and have served the ANC over an unbroken 40 years.

“My own view is that … Veterans League needs to be a structure which is in authority‚ not just voting powers. You must walk and guide any structures of the ANC if there is a problem. This guidance is needed more when there are problems like we are going through — a difficult period like [now]. Veterans cannot behave as a counterforce‚ veterans must be leading efforts of finding solutions‚” said Mantashe.

He said once veterans portray themselves as a counterforce‚ their action would be followed by a reaction and this holds everybody back.

His remarks follow President Jacob Zuma lashing out at veterans who called for him to step down during his opening address at the party’s policy conference at Nasrec‚ south of Johannesburg‚ in June.

Zuma deviated from his prepared speech and said “some of these members are not as strong as they project themselves“‚ referring to the 101 veterans group which has written open letters calling for his removal.

Mantashe said: “A group of veterans or stalwarts boycotted the policy conference of the ANC and that was a mistake. It can’t be right‚ veterans are from the ANC [and] must be dirty if needs be in the effort of trying to get solutions.”

The MK Veterans National Council steering committee‚ led by former South African National Defence Force head Siphiwe Nyanda‚ said the decision to boycott the policy conference was after a failure to agree on the terms of a special consultative conference.